GoAbroad's 2018 Teach Abroad Gear Guide

by Published

Crayons and chargers and backpacks, oh my! Stressing about your teaching abroad packing list? We feel ya! You’ve got to squeeze all your personal and teaching stuff into two pieces of luggage. Ack!

Photo of classroom with focus on pen jar

Before you think about your classroom decorations, let’s focus on some travel essentials. 🤓

This is why our Teach Abroad Gear Guide is your new BFF. It will help you organize your thoughts and figure out what to pack for teaching abroad. Ready to hit the stores, maximize luggage space, and transition into teaching abroad like a pro? We’re about to school you on the ABCs of shopping for a teach abroad gig. Get into this guide and teach overseas with the right stuff—here’s what to buy before teaching abroad!

How to make a smart shopping list

As you’re preparing to shop for teaching abroad, narrow down your list by taking these easy steps:

  1. Get the inside scoop on what to buy. Wondering what to pack for teaching in China? Ask your program advisors for their tips on what to pack for teaching abroad. They’ll tell you what to buy beforehand and what you can grab in-country. Your future principal can also give you an idea of what supplies your soon-to-be classroom is lacking. Then you can decide how much you want to supplement. Previous foreign teachers are also goldmines of info.
  2. Be an early bird. Don’t wait till the last minute to start researching what to pack for teaching abroad. Seriously! Trying to tick off teach abroad packing list items in a rush will drive you insane. The earlier you start the better. 
  3. Only buy what you really need. With all of the start up costs to teaching abroad, you might not have a ton of extra cash lying around to buy the top-shelf reusable water bottle or a brand new Osprey pack. No mind. Think critically about your needs, what you can buy used, and what you actually want to invest in up front.

Where to buy your teach abroad equipment

So, you’ve got your teach abroad packing list ready. And, you’re gearing up for a shopping spree. Should you just head down to the mall or will your neighborhood Dollar Tree cut it? Well, this depends on your budget. You can stick with affordable brands like Sierra Trading Post, REI Co-op, and Walmart, or snag some deals online. Maybe you’re feeling like splurging on travel gear. 

Then check out brands like Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, or Columbia. Just remember that spending more often means your purchases will last you longer

Girl shopping

Time to get your shop on!

Without further ado…your teach abroad gear guide

Mulling over what to pack for teaching abroad in China dopeness? Pull out your notepad or click open Google Docs, you future teacher extraordinaire you. Here’s our guide on the top purchases for what to pack for teaching abroad. 

Travel equipment

How do you like to move through your day? Why does this matter? Well, how comfortably you travel is the difference between an epic or miserable teach abroad experience. Heading overseas for a year? Add these items to your packing list for a year abroad. 

Backpack/luggage. A good travel backpack/luggage will be your lifeline when traveling to teach abroad. From whizzing through the airport to weekend treks, quality travel gear is essential. There’s nothing more annoying than having to schlep around a broken luggage! At $119 bucks, this roomy American Tourister Ilite Xtreme Spinner 25 luggage is affordable and durable for all the bumps of international travel. 

Packing cubes. Turn your travel habits on their head with a few good travel cubes—absolute gamechangers for travelers. These geometrically shaped thingamajigs are small fabric containers of various shapes and sizes. They’ll neatly fit all your travel goodies in your luggage or carry-on, maximizing all your space. Travel cubes are also great for organizing—for example, they can compartmentalize your clean and dirty laundry. As an added bonus, use them to store travel items when you’re not traveling. Packing cubes like this TravelWise Packing Cube System - Durable 5 Piece Weekender+ Set ($22.95) will have you feeling like a travel guru.

  1. Stylish steal: Shacke Pak - 4 Set Packing Cubes - Travel Organizers with Laundry Bag ($22.99)

Daypack. Teaching abroad is filled with a lot of time on your feet. You’ll be zipping around from class to class and probably standing in front of the chalkboard for hours. Weekends could be filled with quick getaways with new friends. This is where daypacks come in. They’re perfect for carrying your stuff on mini-getaways or even walks to school. The lightweight Most Durable Packable Lightweight Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack ($16.82) by Outlander will keep you traveling smart and comfortably.

Water Bottle. Wah wah wah wah wah wah. Yep, you might catch yourself sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Teaching is a lot of blabbing. So, while your shedding all those gems of knowledge, stay hydrated with a good quality water bottle. It will also come in hand for out of town trips too. This leak and spill proof CamelBak Chute 1L Water Bottle ($9.67) will keep your throat muscles moist and get the job done! 

Toiletries bag. As a teacher abroad, you might be sharing a bathroom with others. This could be with your host family members or even other students. So, buy a nifty toiletry bag to make those morning bathroom runs a breeze. This fancy four layer Samtour Cosmetic Pouch ($11.99) is waterproof, compact, and awesomely organized.  

A desk with a person shopping online

Lucky for you, online shopping takes some of the stress out of getting items from our teach abroad gear guide.


Is being plugged in one of your non-negotiables? Stay connected with these useful teach abroad gadgets and gizmos. If you’re teaching abroad for a year, they’ll be some of the most important items on your packing list.

Adapter. Traveling with a few electronics from home? There’s a good chance you’ll need an adapter to use them abroad. So, if you’re heading to Shanghai, an adapter should be at the top of your “what to pack for teaching in China list.” These life saving devices convert your electronics electricity to the local voltage. Without an adapter you run the risk of blowing out your device! Stay on the safe side, and get something like this universal Skross World Travel Adaptor 3 ($29.99)—it works in 150 countries worldwide! 

Portable charger. Your cell phone will be pretty important for everything from potential emergencies to staying in touch with fam. So, it’s a good idea to always keep your phone or tablet juiced up. Still, the inevitable might happen. You could end up somewhere with a dying battery and no outlets to charge up your phone. That’s when having something like this Anker 20100mAh Portable Charger ($39.99) is errrythang. Keep a “power bank” on hand and charge your cell no matter where you go.

Unlocked phone. Planning to use your new iPhone X? Getting it unlocked should be at the top of your teaching abroad packing list. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use it with a foreign sim card. Although, if you do some digging around, you’ll probably find a techie abroad to unlock it for you. Save yourself the headache and get it unlocked before you jet. 

Your favorite toys. Definitely add your beloved tech widgets to your packing list for teaching abroad. Your Kindle and laptop will probably be your staple items… and great for leisure reading and downtime web surfing. A Kindle Paperwhite ($119.99) is a durable buy with a cozily lit screen that goes easy on those readers eyes.

Extra cords. The negative side to traveling is that it tends to wear and tear on your hardware. So, don’t be surprised if you trusty MacBook charger or USB cord starts thinning out or snaps. Now, depending on where you’re teaching abroad, it can be hard to find replacements. Just plan on buying a few extra cords to carry overseas. 

Mini projector. Clunky projectors are a thing of the past (thank god!). However, projectors are still useful classroom tools, especially while abroad at a school with limited resources like paper or textbooks. Snag this Deeplee Mini Projector ($49.99)—it’s small enough to fit in your hand!

For transit

What’s one of the biggest parts of teaching abroad? Traveling, of course! If you know the best of what to pack for teaching abroad, you will journey even smoother. 

Laptop bag. A must-have for anyone taking a computer abroad, laptop bags keep your computer protected from all that traveling bouncing around. Give your laptop a treat with this eBag Professional Slim Laptop Backpack ($119)—it doubles as a laptop bag and backpack. Inside, you’ll find a padded interior, crush proof AC-adapter compartment, and enough space for a 17-inch laptop. Plus, it converts from a backpack to briefcase and can easily attach to your luggage. 

Luggage locks. Unfortunately (or fortunately), TSA and company love to pop open and override luggage locks. Still, there’s no harm in adding them as an extra layer of protection. Keep those sticky fingers at bay with something like this Tarris TSA Lock With SearchAlert ($14.97). 

Neckroll. These are essential for long haul flights or bus rides. And no, we’re not talking about giving the snoring passenger next to you an attitude. These U-shaped travel pillows fit snugly around your neck so you too can get comfy and catch some zzz’s. This cushy Huzi Infinity Pillow ($39.99) will get you plenty of shut-eye.

Fijian classroom

Your classroom abroad will probably look a little different than home, and be equipped with different resources. Ask in advance so you can come prepared!

Clothes + footwear

Adding a gazillion clothing pieces to your teach abroad packing list? Wait one sec! All you really need are a few items to that double as business casual for work and weekend chill wear. So, easy mix and match wear like camis and khaki pants will be godsends. Here’s a few versatile items sure to carry you through any teach abroad occasion.

Further, a good pair of shoes can either make or break an experience (corns and heel cuts are no bueno!). And you’ll definitely be on your feet all day. You’ll want to tread carefully as you pick what shoes to pack along. Then add a few sturdy soles to your packing list for a year abroad.

Waterproof jacket. Heading to the east during monsoon season? Add a raincoat to your “what to pack for teaching in China list.” For less than 20 bucks, this unisex all-weather pull-over lightweight rain jacket ($15.90) will keep you dry.

Versatile clothing. A few maxi or convertible dresses with a shawl or two should cover your teaching wardrobe. The Versalette ($120) is an mindblowing buy—it’s one piece of cloth that can be worn 20 ways! And there’s nothing like a good ‘ole maxi dress like the Popana Regular and Plus Size Comfortable and Versatile Maxi-Skirt ($12.99). They’re affordable and can quickly switch from casual to chic or from tube dress to flowy skirt.

Rain boots. Pack a pair of rubber boots for rain showers or snowy days. Go puddle-sloshing in style with these classic calf hugging Hunter Women's Original Tall Rain Boots ($150). Or, if you’re on a tight budget, an inexpensive pair will totally keep your toes moisture free.

Sandals. The ultimate versatility piece, a good pair of sandals will last you from class to an after work social. Don’t forget to check your school dress code though. Find out if open toe shoes are considered okay for work. Slip your soles into these sleek and comfortable KEEN Women's Dauntless Posted Sandal (from $22.98). But carry a pair of comfortable dress shoes for fancy events too.

Flip flops. At just a few dollars, you can never go wrong with pair of flip flops. Use them as shower shoes to stay fungi free or to take an evening walk with a pal. They’re one of the cheapest but best used teach abroad investments. Try these FitFlop Womens iQushion Ergonomic Flip-Flops (from $14.84).

Picture of outside sky from plane

While most items will cost some $$$, the views you’ll see while teaching abroad will be priceless. 🌟

School supplies

If you’re going somewhere with fewer resources, extra school supplies are probably high on your list of what to buy before teaching abroad. Stumped about what to pack for teaching abroad at a primary or elementary school? Don’t make this harder than it has to be. You probably need less than you think. And, you’ll get tons of teaching done without all the bells and whistles. Here’s our school supply shopping wisdom.

Bring the basics and buy more in-country. Plan on traveling with a few basic supplies to get you through term one. That way, you won’t have to shop too intensively when you first arrive. Once school starts and you get a better feel for your classes needs, buy any extra stuff in-country. However, it is nice to bring a long couple of unique items like stickers or math games to make your classes special. Oh! Bring a quality planner from back home to stay on top of your new schedule.

Definitely pack a few strong workbooks and kids books too. These are great because, if your school is low on interesting books you can make copies and distribute to your students. A good book of short stories like Wacky Stories (10 Short Stories for Kids) ($5.99) will be fun for younger kids and can be broken down into different activities. And for teens, an interesting mysteries collection will be a blast! 

Download this checklist to ensure that you are prepared to teach abroad

Now go forth & shop for teaching abroad with purpose! 

So you see, figuring out what to pack for teaching abroad isn’t rocket science. Just a little organization and early planning will take you a long way and save you the anxiety. 

Now, while our buyer’s list is awesomesauce, it’s by no means all comprehensive. Exactly what you need to buy will vary depending on the country you’re off to and what you’re teaching. What to pack for teaching in China will differ from packing for Tanzania. And stocking up for a summer jobs overseas will differ from your game plan for a year.

So pair up this guide with the insider tips from your program staff. Then start to checking stuff off your list. You’ll be well on your way to a successful teach abroad year.

Now that you’re all geared up, here’s how to pack for teaching abroad

Topic:  Before You Go